27th August 1947. Austerity


Chad summed up post-war shortages. He was mostly seen chalked on walls.

The Post-War Age of Austerity was set against a back-drop of a Retail Price Index which included: back-lacing corsets, wild rabbits, condensed milk, sewing machines, schoolgirls’ navy gym-tunics, gramophone-records, iron-bedsteads and lamp oil. (1)

Bert Hardy

Bert Hardy Photo, sums up background to 1940s Age of Austerity, where most didn’t have indoor baths or WCs, and many lived in back-to back houses.

The full horror and gravity of the mounting financial crisis hit the nation tonight in 1947, when the Labour Government announced the first instalment of the new post-war austerity cuts, and worse was to come. This after six years of war!

People queuing for the cinema.

People queuing for the cinema. Queues were endemic in the 1940s, a decade of shortage.

Prime-Minister Clement Attlee had already warned three weeks ago, of ’peril and anxiety’ of our inability to pay for imports and  of food cuts included reducing meat by 2d to 1 shilling worth per week, at a time when a worker’s wage was about £3-4 a week.

Ration Books, the bane of war-time, still continued and petrol for pleasure motoring, for the few car-owners, was stopped.

Those ‘well-heeled’ who could still afford foreign holidays, found these were soon banned, and businessmen going to Europe were restricted to £8 of foreign currency.

No wonder Attlee called for ‘sacrifice akin to wartime’.

Post WWII was pay back time to our main creditor, which meant America, so the push was for exports to earn dollars in exchange to buy the necessities.

What hit the ordinary person, was the unavailability or short supply of food, not the shortage of luxuries.

More than half of our car output was designated for export: most people cycled.

Advertisers had to apologise for the dearth of their products such as Ransome’s Lawn-Mowers: ‘Owing to the vital need of increasing exports, few are likely to be available during 1948. However most had chickens or even pigs, in the back-garden!

Shanks’ Lawn Mowers, in poetic mood, advised that their ‘Silver Comets’, were on the wing now ‘to earn dollars’.

Earlier advertisement  1946. for Idris, promising product's return.

Earlier advertisement 1946, for Idris, promising product’s return.

However Idris, the ‘quality soft drink’, were back in business: ‘I see our old friend is back again’, showing a jaunty anthropomorphic orange with telescope: ‘Ahoy There’!

Wedgwood Pottery was ordered to export 90% of its output: most people had a few cracked cups and saucers.

Adverts for improving nerve-tone and other health problems, probably appealed to a wider readership.

Fridges unknown except to a few, were advised: ‘THE smaller IT IS…the GREATER the need for Prestcold Refrigerators, which would make food go further’, showing a glum looking be-suited dad opening a dish-top to reveal a morsel.

In July 1949, Chancellor, Stafford Cripps outlined how he was to cut £100m a year from our dollar imports. Sugar headed the list which also included tobacco, timber and paper.(2)

Even Heinz tomato ketchup was unavailable until 1948, as a consequence more salad cream was consumed: the Author remembers eating rounds of it with National Bread for tea: delicious! What you never had you never missed!

By 1949, bread, shoes, clothing, jam and potatoes came off ration: meat had to await 1954.

(1) RPI which includes mortgages was first introduced June 1947.

(2) Cripps on Thursday 14 July. Newspapers were down to 4 pages.

Ref: Chronicle of the 20thc p 660.

Ref: mybrightonadhove.org.uk/image of Chad.

Ref: gerryco23.wordpress.com/Pic Images.

Ref: wikipedia.org/post_war_britain.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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